Friday, October 22, 2010

Film Forum’s Heist Series

For those who haven't been to the Film Forum, it is a movie theater in SoHo (literally on the south side of Houston) that specializes in second run and art films. I have always loved it and I would say that my experiences there are the ones that I most associate with what is wonderful about this city (as well as The Met). 

The first film series I saw at Film Forum was Fellini, and it was the experience from which I drew all judgments on Fellini (later work, generally overrated, early, strong). This Heist series has had a similar meaning for me. I think that I have always thought that heist films are the core genre in film and if I did some research I might be willing to try to defend that claim.

This series has an excellent selection of films. This is not to say that all of the films are good.  Several are probably choices based of availability and budget (like The Anderson Tapes, which is really forgettable), rather than cinematic virtue.  For example, one great heist film is Spike Lee’s 2006 Inside Man, but this was not included. Or Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), which is probably one of the best heist films. Or The Getaway (1972) or Out of Sight (1998). Etc.

Here’s a rundown of what was shown.

Among those I had seen before are:
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974): Good, with Walter Matthau, back when he was a kind of sex symbol … yeah? … and Robert Shaw; certainly much better than the tepid remake with washed-out Travolta and old-earnest-kept-down Denzel Washington (the same character is better in Inside Man).
The Anderson Tapes (1971): A Sidney Lumet film with Sean Connery that is underwhelming.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968): Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, but generally an uninteresting story (and the remake is worse, in my view, mainly because of Rene Russo, but assisted by Denis Leary [who let this guy in front of a movie camera?]).
Reservoir Dogs (1992): A great film with unforgettable performances by everyone.  Even the guy who loses his ear.
Kansas City Confidential (1952): An interesting narrative arc, with a totally creepy Lee Van Cleef, but otherwise predictable pulp.

The Killing (1956): Great early Kubrick film, with Sterling Hayden, whose character should lead, but is in fact displaced by the brilliance of other, seemingly minor characters. Every character is so filled with longing and tragic fate. 
The film starts with Johnny Clay (Hayden), just out of prison, and Fay, and he explains how his next heist is going to work and the mistakes he made last time, and she says she can't bear to be away from him again, because she's not pretty or smart. I mean, right there, you are caught. But then you've also got this weird, homoerotic money man (Jay Flippen), a skeevy sniper (Timothy Carey), an existentialist, chess playing strong man, and the most pathetic man on the planet who is being relentlessly emotionally assaulted by his two-timing wife.
I shall write more about this film in the next post.

Le Cercle Rouge (1970): Fucking Melville.  If you don’t like this shit, check your pulse.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988): Hilarious, with great performances by everyone.  There really are not any bad scenes in this movie. 
Thief (1981): by Michael Mann (one reason to see it, the other being an actual good performance by James Caan, who is otherwise mediocre)
Bob Le Flambeur (1955): Again, Melville. Cool and good.
Violent Saturday (1955): I think I only saw the latter part of this, but it has Lee Marvin (enough said) and some Amish dude sticks a gangster with a pitchfork.  Price of admission right there.
Jackie Brown (1997): Categorizing this as a heist film is kind of insulting, although this could be said for several of the films in the series.  This is a great movie and demonstrates Taratino’s incredible sensitivity to gender and race.  Everyone, even fucking Bridget Fonda, is good in this movie.

The films that I hadn’t seen:
Charley Varrick (1973): Now I see why Clint loves Don Siegel so much.  This is a good, fun-to-watch film. Walter Matthau as a sex symbol? What? But it develops its tension well.  Although I read this elsewhere, Joe Don Baker is clearly the archetype for Anton Chigurh, although Anton Chigurh would make Joe Don Baker run back to his mama.
The Hot Rock (1972): A strange inertia moves this film, but the heist business is all pulp in relation to the performance by Zero Mostel, which makes the movie worth watching.

Sterling Hayden
The Asphalt Jungle (1950): A film so good that I feel embarrassed for not having seen it before, especially since it’s a Huston film and I loved Key Largo and the Maltese Falcon (Y and I saw this in Paris on our first trip there together and we both loved it …).  Stars Sterling Hayden, who is the unexpected emotional core of this film, although he plays the role of the muscle, as well as Marilyn Monroe, John McIntyre and Sam Jaffe. The trajectory of this film is assured, but you want to watch every minute of it.  It's the kind of film that you realize, while watching, this is really good ... and maybe you don't know why.  That is an exciting feeling.  
I will write more about this in the next post.

The Sicilian Clan (1969): Camp and a half. Alain Delon without any charm.  Jean Gabin with the largest nose in Europe and no charm.  Lino Ventura, fucking hilarious with the quitting smoking bit. This combination should be genius … is not.  Is one to watch, but basically a camp commentary on other heist films.
Classes Tous Risques (1960): Fucking Lino Ventura is beautiful, always. That guy is like the Toshiro Mifune of France—has incredible range, always impressive. This film has weight and a great narrative. The desperation and pathos is palpable and beautiful. Jean-Paul Belmondo is a little too self-conscious of himself as JPB, at the beginning, but he grows into this character appreciably throughout the film. And the ending is brutal and right.

What I didn’t see, but still want to:
Un Flic (1972): Melville, with Delon and Deneuve.
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954): Lino Ventura, Jean Gabin, and a young and breathtaking Jeanne Moreau.
Rififi (1955): by Jule Dassin.
A Band of Outsiders (1964): Godard.  I’m really embarrassed about this.  I’ve only watched the first 30 minutes.
Criss Cross (1949): by Richard Siodmark, with Burt Lancaster and Dan Duryea.
Nightfall (1956): by Jacques Tourneur, with Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft.
Vera Cruz (1954): by Robert Aldrich, with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster.  A western heist film! And an evil Burt Lancaster!
Colorado Territory (1949): by Raoul Walsh.  I’ve just got a feeling about this one.
Topkapi (1964): by Jule Dessin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is Philosophy?

Because it is unfortunately that time of year and the state of the world is what it is, I am going on the market. This activity requires revising a "teaching dossier" in which I talk about my teaching style and pedagogical principles, etc. This year, in revising it, I am treading the same path that I have pursued in the past by defining philosophy ... and I find this task making me wonder, in a way much like my erstwhile colleague Dr. J, who has recently done so on her blog.
She has challenged myself and others to provide an explanation in 200 words, to avoid terminological pedantry and to distinguish between the profession and the discipline

On my account, philosophy has two aspects and these aspects are actually not complementary, but indicate an internal conflict.

On the one hand, philosophy is an activity, by which I understand the skills of "critical thinking." That is, so as to counter the natural tendency of students to believe that philosophy is an abstract matter, I  stress that as an activity philosophy depends upon the skills of reading, writing and discussion, which are skills that we use everyday, although not in the "critical" mode.  I say a lot about the conditions for this critical thinking, but here I will only say that it should inspire "intellectual curiousity". Intellectual curiousity is a state, in which we encounter the world with the greatest of fascination. The accumulation of knowledge could allow our expectations and assumptions to make us bored with the world. Intellectual curiousity, by contrast, is a state in which we find the world fascinating, so as not to allow the possible cynicism of certain wisdom to afflict us.

On the other hand, philosophy is a vibrant historical discipline, meaning that it has passed down practices of thinking and questioning, determinations of appropriate objects, the canonization of important texts and philosophers. This history develops and changes in relation to the events that occur within philosophy, the academy and outside. Being a philosopher means knowing that history, appreciating it and contributing to it.

Now for the interesting part. I think that many contemporary philosophers accept the former description, presuming that philosophy inquires into meta-disciplinary areas, some traditionally occupied by philosophy (metaphysics) and others new (philosophy of science), but that they see themselves as related to their past as merely a narrative about what happened before. What is more, they liken their activity to the activities of theorists and scientists in other disciplines.

But I think those philosophers would be uncomfortable by the philosophers who work from and in the historical institution (I am one of those). That is, I am dubious about the scientific-like assumptions of philosophy as an activity, and instead perceive my work as reading and developing the history of philosophy. The big problem is this: I think that should be an end without being legitimated by possible application. In other words, I think that history should be done for its own sake--the antiquarian, I believe, that Nietzsche critiques in his famous essay.

A last brief note: I have no idea how to distinguish the discipline from the profession. The former it seems to me is the activity and the historical institution. My inclination is to hold the profession to be the conferences and professional societies and journals and publications.  But it is equally reasonable to say that the profession is very much about teaching in the university system.

A pickle, as a Romanian philosopher used to say.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Revisiting Barton Fink (1990)

Why has Barton Fink (1990) not weathered time well? This may be a completely subjective and/or personal question and among film historians or theorists the film may still hold its worth.  But I suspect that many of the later works by the Coen brothers, particularly Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007), have eclipsed this film. 
One reason simply may be that the latter won Oscars for Best Picture and while Barton Fink was not nominated for those awards (although it did win at Cannes for Best Director and Best Actor, and Cannes is a slightly more reliable criterion [and yet, The Ladykillers (2004) was also nominated and won, in the categories of Best Director and the Jury Award respectively … and I think we can agree that the film was a complete catastrophe]). The Oscars seem to mean a great deal when worthy films grace its award and mean nothing when lesser films do (Titanic? Crash?).
Perhaps this is a useless question. But the question is about trying to intimate how time and culture will treat a work of art.  What is obscure or mediocre now may, in a new light, become terribly important.  No Country for Old Men is an important film because it is timely (i.e. Mexico), because it is based (almost verbatim) on a book by a probably first-order contemporary American writer, because it contains one of the most terrifyingly provocative characters to greet the screen since Orson Welles’ “Captain Hank Quinlan”, namely, Javier Bardem’s “Anton Chigurh”, because it does this while meaningfully narrating the anxieties of an old man, no longer welcome, Tommy Lee Jones’ “Ed Tom Bell”.  And it has an unsettling, serious ending.
Barton greets the subject of his hotel room painting.
Whereas Barton Fink is lighter fare. It has no serious ending, but rather ends in an unrealistic, somewhat comic manner, with a man contemplating a scene he has seen before, in a painting on the wall of his formerly transient, now residential, hotel room. And this man carries a box which we can only conclude contains the head of a woman  that he made love to (perhaps the only one) a handful of nights before. Yet he claims that he does not know what is in the box, and as he has not looked in the box, this is at least apodictically true, albeit not probablistically.
One of the reasons for the decline of Barton Fink’s fortunes may be an aesthetic shift, away from a style of artistic craft that weaves ideas and images together, but without closure or, possibly, basic synthesis. You can see an example of this in the episode “Crocodile” from the first season of Dexter, which begins and ends with an image of someone their head halfway submerged in the water. In the episode there actually happens to be a crocodile, which is supposedly the lure for a would-be killing, disturbed by the goodie Dexter, who then accidentally stumbles into the former.  The title of the episode is a reference to images bookending the episode, as well as one of the momentary subjects of the episode, but lacks any meaningful thematic synthesis.
Barton Fink, thankfully, does not traffic in this reductive version of the non-synthetic (nor analytic), non-cohesive style.  Instead, it concerns itself with the ironic search of a playwright turned screenwriter for the “theater of the common man”, a murderous everyman character, the soul-pulverizing forces of the early film industry, and haunting images. But it does allow a significant amount of screen time to be spent on this closing image of a woman sitting on the edge of the surf.  This image is some kind of focal point, among a series of events of varying gravity, to give the eponymous character some evanescent stability while the world that he knows slowly collapses.
Barton Fink lacks a moral center and it intentionally avoids judgment by settling for a elliptical, oneiric vision. The most sympathetic character appears to be a friendly albeit stressed door-to-door salesman, but is then discovered to be an axe-murdering Nazi (John Goodman as Charley Meadows, a.k.a. “Karl ‘Mad Man’ Mundt”.  The main character is a pretentious, snobbish intellectual of sorts who believes that he writes from the vicissitudes of emotional conflict in attempt to contribute to the humanistic mission of a “theater of the common man.” He claims a moral obligation to this working class fellow, but repeatedly fails in the basic attempt to “listen” to him, as Charley/Karl eventually points out. And of course, there is nothing more ironic than the fact that Fink strives for a theater of the common man, seeing screenwriting as merely means to that end, completely oblivious that film is the only remaining “theater of the common man.” There is no way we can identify with Fink.
Does this mean that Barton Fink has been passed aside in favor of Fargo and No Country for Old Men precisely because of the moral judgments of the latter? Have we unwittingly become fiends for moralistic art?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Travels with the idiot man-child

I have never begrudged the idiot man-childs ("childs" not "children") the numerous advantages they have enjoyed at the expense of civilized persons such as myself.

I met this fellow in Memphis TN.  His name is Jeffrey and claimed that he spelled it with a P-A-R-K-E-R. I laughed nervously and stepped back, in part because of the foul air of mediocrity wafting slowly, like the gentle violence of raw, unrefined petroleum. But I also stepped back because I am one of the few people who believes that spelling is a vital skill without which we all slowly return to the primordial soup. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A review of The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littell

I read about The Kindly Ones in a review in NYRB (which I strongly recommend everyone to peruse regularly (as a close friend recently asked, "how have I lived without this?" after receiving the first issues of her subscription, to which I glibly responded, "in ignorance")), but I cannot say now what in particular it was in the description there that made me so interested in the book. But I was clearly hooked on some level and wanted to buy it, but then only the cloth edition was available and I kept asking myself if I would actually read all of it (not that this has stopped me in the past, mind you) ... and then Y bought it for me while she was buying pregnancy books.

Les Bienveillantes records the life of Maximilien Aue, a young man in his 20s, who is an SS officer during the second World War. The narrative follows the years 1941 to 1944 mostly, although there are snippets from earlier periods of his life, and the beginning of the novel finds our narrator writing to us from contemporary France, having lived a post-war life as an innocuous French burgher.

His address to us is inspiring, and offensive, and quite conscious thereof:
Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened. I am not your brother, you'll retort, and I don't want to know.
This is the apologia of a former SS officer, in the sense of the Socratic contribution to this form, namely, not as an actually apology or even confession insofar as those terms imply guilt, perhaps even remorse, but merely as a retelling of how it happened. It is not exculpatory, although I found myself frequently wanting, at least at first, to somehow acquit this individual of his guilt.

A brief excursus: I feel in this respect a need to confess myself, in part, because I suspect my reactions to this novel may be quite different from others. Prima facie, this may appear merely in the fact that I wanted desperately to read this quite graphic account of an SS officer's life during the war. I think that there is something simultaneously fascinating and horrifying about the Nazis, very much like the scene of an accident from which one cannot look away. I wrote my senior thesis on the novels of Jean Genet, with whom I fell in love upon reading The Thief's Journal. The source of my attraction was always the radical, incongruous transvaluation of values. I am a PK, and have been seeking confirmation of the moral values I naively accepted as a child, and when I did not receive it, I sought the opposite. For these reasons, I find my limit experience in films like Audition (1999) and Funny Games (1997), to which I am drawn as if this is somehow something unquestionably real (but I never finished watching the first, and the second I doubt if I'll ever be able to watch again).

I had to shut the book on reading the description of the protagonist's reluctant participation in the Babi Yar massacre. That is actually more or less where we begin with our narrator, once he allows himself to return to the past. Namely, the movement of the German Army forward into the Ukraine during 1941, when their military might seemed insuperable. The narrator is part of an Einsatzgruppe, a paramilitary death squad. The SS, we learn from Aue, is as its name intends, a security attaché, which is preparing the conquered lands for the Lebensraum--for the emigration of Germans into these lands and the growth of the Third Reich. I guess I had never appreciated the distinction of the Wehrmacht (the army) from the Nazis. I knew that the NSDAP was a political party and that there were others although the former assumed power in the 1933. Yet I suppose I always thought when you were talking about the Nazis you meant Germans during the war. But this is inaccurate, insofar as members of the Wehrmacht were not necessarily Nazis, and the active Nazis during the war were members of the SD and the SS, and when we speak of war crimes we primarily mean the actions of the latter (although obviously there were many exceptions to this). (And so now I wonder if in the film Inglorious Basterds, Brad Pitt's character was seeking the scalps of any Germans or specifically Nazis, and if he appreciated the difference between.)

Einsatzgruppen purged the conquered lands of threats to Nazi party and the Third Reich. Mostly this meant Jews, insofar as they were supposedly closet Bolsheviks or had such leanings. Their duplicitous nature (!) was the cause of this. I won't go into this. But Aue is particularly interesting in that his office was to determine, by the assistance of sociologists and historians and linguists, who were Jews and therefore needed to be exterminated. Aue is an intellectual and has a doctorate in law, and therefore is capable of this kind of labor. Again, I hadn't appreciated the delicacy of this kind of task, namely that because of the logistic challenges of killing thousands of people (at a time), it was important to determine who were actual threats and who were not. Aue befriends other intellectuals who are dubious of the basis of the race studies, but is himself largely convinced, not so much by the veracity of race studies but by the allure and mission of the Third Reich and the Führer in particular. He is a believer. In the latter parts of the book he takes on the study of the workers in the concentration camps and his research demonstrates the divisive, contradictory impulses of the Nazis to exterminate the Jews and yet the necessity of the latter (to be kept in good condition) as military-industrial labor. In this context, Aue advocates better conditions for the Jews and comes to despise the Endlösung.

Aue's political convictions, perhaps we are to speculate, come out of his own Orestian anger. Like Orestes, he holds his mother responsible for his father's disappearance. He desires the restoration of the fatherland. His mother's guilt is unlikely, but this does not matter. She also provokes his contempt insofar as she interrupts the romance between Aue and his sister Una. This relationship is slowly but surely revealed as the most important psychological and emotional event of Aue's life. That romance lasts only during their childhood and early adolescent years. Their mother separates them, sending them to different boarding schools, but they declare their love and faith. Aue keeps it and plans to without end. Una marries an impotent composer and forever wounds Aue. But the images of that relationship seems to subconsciously fuel Aue's homosexual encounters.

The book ends as Berlin falls, but with Aue we have seen Stalingrad and the Ukrainian campaign, we have visited the concentration and the death camps, we have been audience during meetings of SS officers deciding the fates of thousands. We see in vivid detail the horrors of war. Less the sometimes heroic actions of soldiers and troops in battle than the lives of the anonymous peoples who suffer the wake of those military operations. The wake is arguably the worst part, the part that will keep us awake and not allow us to forget. In military operations we at least see an apparently logical movement, destroying participants in battle and the resources that assist them. But the wake, which Littell best represents by the conquest of the Russians across the West into Germany, is the lawlessness that haunts military action.

At the beginning of the book Aue is part of an Einsatzgruppe amongst the most repugnant human beings: violent, bile-filled men thoughtlessly killing innocent people. It is remarkable how the law that allows them to kill these (for the security of the fatherland) protects the members of the SS and Wehrmacht from each other. By the end of the book we see that law break down, although primarily in the Russians who do not countenance the self-deception that war is limited to combatants and who rape and slaughter those in their path.

Humans killing other humans, pointlessly. It is so sickening, but persistent, in this book that it loses dramatic effect. Near the final pages Littell ingeniously employs agents who recapture that horror. As Aue struggles through a crumbling Berlin, still avoiding the Erinyes that plague him, he enter Tiergarten--the zoo. No limit is to be found here.
I entered a half-destroyed building: in a large cage, an immense black gorilla was sitting, dead, a bayonet stuck in its chest. A river of black blood flowed between the bars and mingled with the pools of water. This gorilla looked surprised, astonished; its wrinkled face, its open eyes, its enormous hands, seemed frighteningly human to me ...
As a pet owner, perhaps, this image was worst than anything else I had read. And I had read passages about the snapping bones of dead bodies under foot. But of course, this passage isn't merely about animals and especially not of domestic animals. ... For me, the point is that humans are guilty, existentially, but animals are not, cannot be. So much so that humans are stripped of their "humanity", and only our anthropological cousins can retain it. To understand the banality of the horror of war we must see it in the face of someone or something who is actually human, or deserving of the rights which we deny ourselves.

The Kindly Ones is an exceptional work of historical fiction. I suspect it will be required reading in the future for anyone studying the second world war or the Nazi military campaigns. It overcomes and silences the shallow caricatures of the latter that history has necessarily produced and puts something worse, but more lifelike, in its place. This novel is also an exceptional literary work that I believe will endure. It is repeatedly insightful and honest, confronting the most important moral questions without superficial treatment or resolution. It is beautiful in its persistence in witnessing what is ugliest about human being and our history. I don't know if I think everyone should read it. Rather, I think there are plenty of people who should not--mainly, those who cannot swallow bitter pills (Christians, Republicans, etc.), who prefer illusions. On the other hand, if you are disposed to actually know something, you should read this book.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

3-Minute Fiction: Digging Holes

The earth came out of the ground, but it wouldn’t return. There just wasn’t enough room for the earth to fit back in the ground, what with the antique desk in there.
That was the third day.

The first day began after he left for the airport. She already had some notion where it would go. Behind their cozy home a couple of lovely acres stretched, covered with a thick fur of grass. How much time and money had been spent to aerate the soil and generously nourish that yard with water and fertilizer? The yard was the first investment they agreed upon.
In the weeks before his trip, she mentioned two or three times the idea of creating a garden. She said this a couple of times, at the end or beginning of a conversation such that it would be lost beside these matters. It was a lateral remark, perfectly poised to insinuate itself yet remain in the background of daily life. She had to plant the idea.
The first day she carefully removed a patch of topsoil, large enough both for the plot where she would dig as well as the space across which she would drag the desk and then lower it into the hole. She planned to leave no trace of her work; the surface had to be preserved.

The second day she cleaned out the desk, putting its contents in a box. Everything was set aside, except for those nasty pages she found behind a practically hidden panel near the foot of the desk, the day that the desk lamp shorted after she pressed the on/off button and she climbed beneath that desk to unplug it and then saw it. That was two months ago. During those two months she read all of those handwritten pages. And she began writing a similar apologia. The task consumed her, her state of mind oscillating between rage and erotic provocation. It was complete the day before his flight, an elaborate narrative constructed out of every insipid detail that could be coaxed from her memories. She clung tightly to him that night in bed, her pages warming the floor beneath their bed. The next day he left for the airport.
She took her apologia, bound it and replaced it behind the hidden panel at the foot of the desk. She dragged the desk, on its top, across the yard on a tarp, quickly, so as not to disturb the grass too much. It flipped over onto its feet as it fell into the hole. It sat a little more than a foot beneath the surface. Then she tried to replace the earth.

The third day she had to replace the grassy surface, somehow such that no trace would remain and that within a week or so the grass roots would reach back into the ground. But more than a wheelbarrow’s load of dirt remained, that would not fit back into the ground. After replacing the grass (and watering it), she pushed the wheelbarrow to the edge of the yard, around the perimeter slowly, no space being quite right.
He would fly back tomorrow. She would say she’d sold that ugly, antique desk. He would be mad, but …
And then she realized, she would simply leave the full wheelbarrow in the middle of the yard. Except for the handful she put into a bowl and placed underneath their bed.
Next month, before she left to visit her mother, she would tell him to dig out the area she had staked out. His shovel would strike the desk, revealing her trick.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Red Riding: 1974, 1980

"Red Riding" is a series of films, 1974, 1980, and 1983, which are based on a quartet of books by the British author David Peace. I saw the first two of these three films last night at the IFC Center at West 4th and 6th Ave.

I'd been prepared for these movies by reading the piece on them in the New York Times, which made me want to see them, although in retrospect I wonder why. Perhaps it was because of the photograph ran with the story, a still from the first film, which presents the young journalist, who is investigating the abductions of three girls, which the narrative of that film largely follows. More likely, it was the promise of blood and gore, the strangely seductive dream of human bodies rendered un-life-like. In my defense, the first paragraph describes horror non-sex-centric. As if that is possible.

My conscience is slightly assuaged by the knowledge that two of my friends who are paragons of feminist virtue both vigorously consumed 2066, whose most horrifying elements described dryly the murders of more than a hundred Mexican women. Thus, it is not violence porn that drives me (I couldn't even finish that part of the book!), right?

Ah, ethical motives.

Anyway, it's a tough set of movies to see. At this moment I am trying to figure out whether to go and the see the last film tonight or to rent it on Netflix.

It's not because of the story of the abductions, which is only part of the first film and is mostly a provocation for the narrative, but about which the narrative actually doesn't concern. Similarly with the second, which is roughly based on the Yorkshire Ripper killings during the 1980s. In fact, both films are about investigating murders and the vicissitudes of administrative power. In 2066, the subject matter is the same. Bolaño pushes the narrative to follow a few police officers and other related figures finding bodies of women, so that the time the precipitates these victims to their final moments is unaccounted for.

This, it seems to me, is the attractive force in every criminal story. The vestiges of some unthinkable occurrence are found. Vision partially reconstructs how the pieces may have fallen into this order, but always lacks the comprehension that would complete it. What is remarkable about the murder scene is what is missing and yet what is present. The murder scene is, ironically, alive. It bears its own identity and secret; it has a personality, but is wholly mute. I suspect that before the televisual, murder scenes were fairly uninteresting. I say this because they are spectacles par excellence.

For this reason, the justice the murder receives in a trial court is the best possible resolution. By this I do not mean that conventional justice is perfect, but that it is necessarily inadequate. The contemporary trial courtroom tends to lack windows and that is always completely appropriate (I know this grace à "Nightline", etc. The courtroom must be cut off from any natural affects (sunlight, for example) that might allow it to correspond to the needs of human life. In the courtroom the narrative is slowly constructed, in pieces, through an almost orchestral presentation. Each performance is unique and inimitable. And the judge and jury are asked to maintain attention and concern through this performance and then to give judgment. But the judgment is a single, hollow word that quickly passes into eternity.

And words are never equal to the event that has occurred. Yet their inadequacy is a perfect response to the silent haunting of the murder scene.

P.S. This is not what "Red Riding" is about.